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Can a Google bomb win an election? With the upcoming election in the United States just weeks away and one political party facing major losses, the Daily Kos, a popular liberal blog, is turning to Google to help Democratic candidates.

The plan: organize a Google bomb to direct voters to the most disparaging articles about Republican candidates.

A post by Daily Kos blogger Chris Bowers, who used the same technique in 2006, explains:

...not only is it possible for us to use our hyperlinks to impact what people find when they search for information on candidates, but we would be foolish not to do so in a way that benefited our preferred candidates. We are already impacting search engine rankings whenever we post any hyperlink anywhere, so we need to make sure the way we use hyperlinks helps result in our preferred political outcomes.

Of course, this techniques Bowers is using to "impact what people find when they search for information on candidates" are technically against Google's Webmaster Guidelines, which include the following 'rules':

Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"

Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.

So will Google do anything about Daily Kos' behavior? Not surprisingly, Republican supporters expect nothing less. "If you do not delist Daily Kos for this behavior you call unethical, then you have a partisan political bias," Neil Stevens writes at RedState, a popular conservative blog.

Obviously, politics always involves many cans of worms, and that's the case here. On one hand, the Daily Kos is a popular blog, so it seems unlikely that Google would drop the entire site from its index. After all, violation or not, the Daily Kos' "Grassroots SEO" scheme doesn't necessarily mean that all of the site's content is suddenly illegitimate or irrelevant. On the other hand, the Daily Kos is supporting a scheme that clearly violates Google's guidelines.

Complicating matters further is the fact that Bowers and company are planning to use Google AdWords as part of their campaign. So Google will have a financial relationship with the very people who seek to manipulate the SERPs via forbidden means.

All of this puts Google in a tough spot. So what should it do? In my opinion, the most important thing to note here is that the Daily Kos is operating out in the open. It isn't simply violating Google's guidelines, it's doing so publicly and apparently isn't concerned about the possibility of a Google smack down. From this perspective, the Daily Kos is effectively saying "We don't care about Google. It won't enforce its guidelines."

That's a problem for Google. If large publishers feel that Google doesn't have the will power to enforce its rules against them, and that they can openly seek to manipulate the SERPs with impunity, Google had better think long and hard about how it will maintain the quality and integrity of its search results. For its part, Google has previously taken a hands-off approach because of its confidence in its algorithm's ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. But it might want to think long and hard about that too, as some of that confidence is clearly misplaced.

Patricio Robles

Published 11 October, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2378 more posts from this author

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SEO Assistant

I'd be interested in seeing how this turns out.  If Google does nothing it may be precedent that opens the door to a lot of black hat SEO methods.

www.SEOAssistant.org

almost 6 years ago

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Vee Sweeney

One way that Google could solve this is by adding a little bit of television airtime rules. If they give one candidate x number of links, they have to give the other candidate the same number of links. Of course this will never happen and The Daily Kos's arrogance purely proves that, but something does need to be done. Google needs to step up and make it known that big company, popular blog or not, that no one or no website is above the guidelines. Also, Google has pulled several multi million dollar Adwords accounts before and banned them so hopefully they stick to their guidelines with this one as well. 

almost 6 years ago

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Mark

Of course Google will let them get away with it. Where have you been the last 15 years?

Google lets people that agree with them politically (lefty loons) game the ranking until someone points it out, and then they claim they are working on it. Months later it is not fixed, then it gets more attention, and finally before they have lost all credibility (*ROTFLMAO* who am I kidding they have no credibility, it's when they get tired of the publicity) they "fix" the issue.

Even if the lame-stream-media actually do report this, Google will not fix it until after the elections.

>I'd be interested in seeing how this turns out.  If Google does

> nothing it may be precedent that opens the door to a lot of

> black hat SEO methods.

You have no clue what you are talking about. it doesn't take "black hat seo" to do this.

almost 6 years ago

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Tad Miller

Take politics completely out of this.  This is NOT against Google's Webmaster Guidelines.  It's not a "trick" designed to improve search engine rankings.  A whole entire industry (Search Engine Optimization) is based on this, and a site like e-consultancy devoted to "Digital Marketers" should know better.

These are natural links, the fact that Daily Kos asked for them is NOT out of the norm.  No money is being exchanged for these links and their isn't anything being exchanged in the transaction.  That's what Google cares about.  

These will be links that bloggers will use on their own blogs voluntarily.  They are essentially free speech, are viral in nature and are exactly what Google values in their ranking algorithm.  Anyone can do this and should be able to do this, including Conservative Bloggers.

Look at the specific Webmaster Guideline quoted in the article "In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links."  What are the "Bad Neighborhoods and where are the "Spammers"?  

These are bloggers that write content that some people value, just like Conservative Bloggers.  They are not using Link Farms and are not using "Spammy" techniques to get links.

All that Daily Kos was ask it's readers for a link.  It's amazing what you can get when you actually bother to ask...

almost 6 years ago

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SEO SEM SMO

Not sure how telling your readers to spread information violates Googles T.O.S. You'll have to do a much better job trying to convince me this is a violation. In fact Google won't think it is either. The only way this would be a violation would be if the links were used to raise the ranking of Daily Kos. Here the intent is to raise the ranking of disparaging articles no matter which site they are published on. This is not a violation of Googles terms. It's a matter of being smarter than the competition. What are we going to do about Facebook Linkedin Pages the candidates will have??? OMG they'll use mind warp on their fans!!!

almost 6 years ago

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Jon Henshaw

I don't think Google cares about what people say they're going to do, they only care about actions. And for something like a Google bomb, they prefer to tweak their algo to stop it, not de-index sites that they think participated in it. If they did take them out of the index, it would be very uncharacteristic And either way, it would have nothing to do with a ridiculous political conspiracy.

almost 6 years ago

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singer sewing machine

I don't agree with everything in this article, but you do make some very good points. I'm very interested in this matter and I myself do alot of research as well.

almost 6 years ago

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Jon Henshaw

Singer Sewing Machine, you probably don't agree with everything in this article because you suffer from acute, debilitating spam.

almost 6 years ago

Alec Kinnear

Alec Kinnear, Creative Director at Foliovision

Patricio, interesting take. But way offside again. You've been blinded by your Randian politics again.

  1. these links are not paid
  2. they are on legitimate websites
  3. they point to legitimate websites
Yes, it's a little bit manipulative. Lots of examples of republicans and their tea party brownshirts doing similar things and worse including DDOS attacks. It's really sad that you think because you have a good education and you know how to use a computer and that you are not cross-eyed, you are entitled to so much more than those who've been deprived of the same opportunities. When does the Robles eugenics program start?

almost 6 years ago

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